Monday, 29 February 2016 09:33

Open standards must win in smart home race

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Consumers enter the Smart Home journey with the expectation of creating an intelligent home that anticipates and serves their needs in a delightful, low maintenance manner – wrong.

“Along this [smart home] journey, after users have to overcome the hurdles of installation and continued use through often broken app experiences, and they are confronted with a mess of protocols as they approach expansion,” explained John Feland, CEO, Argus Insights. “Consumers are dismissing Google’s Nest ecosystem, and we see a real battle between Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa for the voice of the Smart Home. While Apple forces users to rely on iOS devices, Alexa will chat up anyone willing to integrate into the Echo API.”

Consumers are frustrated - in particular with Google and Apple’s refusal to play nicely together and are happier with the broad and relatively easier to integrate Amazon Echo. “Consumers are taking notice that Amazon is choosing a community garden strategy over a walled garden approach favoured by Google and Apple,” added Feland.

And that is precisely why Amazon's Alexa is winning (in the US). Argus Insights finds consumers may want an Apple-enabled Smart Home but are frustrated that the Apple Homekit is not compatible with all products, nor does it offer a reasonably complete ecosystem.

According to data compiled by Argus Insights from over 576,000 Smart Home device and application consumer reviews from January 2015-present, the Amazon Echo and Apple’s Homekit are top of mind for consumers specifically discussing ecosystems. The Amazon Echo has gained strong consumer interest since the product was broadly promoted at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. For the Google ecosystem, the Works with Nest environment is the least discussed ecosystem of the bunch.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Good hardware is not enough to propel Nest further in the Smart Home space. Google is losing its hold on the greater Smart Home market as interest wanes in Works with Nest and Nest Weave.
  • Amazon Echo is providing a delightful Smart Home experience with broad compatibility and multi-user capabilities.
  • Consumers are interested in controlling their Smart Home with Apple, but Homekit will need to continue to play nice with other brands and expand compatibility past iOS devices to compete with Amazon's Alexa.

“Consumers are also frustrated with the apps that dictate, schedule and manage smart home devices than with the actual devices themselves,” according to Feland. "The other surprise was the gap between consumer perceptions of smart home devices and the apps that control them. Nest is the highest-rated thermostat on the market, yet their app sits in the middle of the pack.

"Some of the issues relate to connectivity to the smart home devices, frustrating consumers that their smart lighting app isn't connecting to their new bulbs, forcing a return to the switch on the wall. Other issues are related mainly to app quality, problems with stability, lag, crashing, and more,” he added.

He explained for example, that when consumers expect the reliability of a light switch but experience a buggy, lagging interface, this impacts the overall adoption of smart home technology.

It is clear that home automation - smart homes – is presently a fight between competing ecosystems – Apple, Samsung, LG, Google, Amazon and more, not to mention the hundreds of device makers like Honeywell, iControl, Philips, Belkin, etc., that want to be part of these ecosystems. The smart home, like the utilities that power it, may not be a place where we can afford walled gardens.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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